A ship smuggling 1,100 tons of oil
out of Iraq has been intercepted by the Royal Navy.
The HMS Sutherland made the seizure in the northern Arabian gulf
It is the Navy's largest seizure since the end of the war.
Royal Marine commandos from the HMS Sutherland frigate
boarded the vessel in the northern Arabian gulf late on Friday
and arrested its captain and crew.
The raid comes as ordinary Iraqis rioted in frustration at the country's fuel shortages.
The ship had been under
surveillance for several days.
"This is the most significant seizure we have had since the
end of the war," Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Richard Walter
The ship, called Navstar 1, was registered in Panama and had
a Ukrainian crew.
It was not known who owned the vessel or where
it was headed with its load of diesel oil.
The US-appointed administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said
coalition forces were determined to put an end to any illegal
activities affecting Iraq's economy and its people.
"The seizure of the Navstar 1 demonstrates the commitment of
the coalition forces and the Iraqi police to protecting Iraq's
assets, so that they can benefit all Iraqis, rather than the
criminals," he said in a statement.
The ship was due to be escorted to the southern port of Umm
Qasr this weekend where the crew would be handed over to Iraqi
police for questioning.
US and British forces in Iraq have been trying to clamp
down on rampant smuggling of oil and oil-related products since
the invasion in March.
British forces in Basra in the south of the country came under a hail of stones on Saturday as locals' anger at the lack of petrol spilled over.
Earlier this week, US forces seized 12 oil barges and detained 150 people in a two-week
campaign to stamp out smuggling.
Damage to Iraq's major northern oil pipeline has meant that
oil sales since the war have been restricted to supplies from
its southern Basra fields.
Exports from the southern fields have been running at about
650,000 barrels per day so far in August, compared to
total pre-war export potential of 2.2 million barrels per day.